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The Caravan

The Caravan May 2019

The Caravan is India’s first narrative journalism magazine. Stories are reported in a style that uses elements usually reserved for fiction—plot, characters, scenes and setting—to bring the subject to life. Like The New Yorker, The Atlantic and Granta, the context of a Caravan story is something more substantial. In India, this niche—one for the intellectually curious, the aesthetically inclined and the upwardly mobile, has remained vacant. That is, until The Caravan.

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Delhi Press Patra Prakashan Pte LTD
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12 Issues

in this issue

6 min.
unsafe haven

Erwin Karl Tiegel was born in the German port city of Hamburg. He died at the age of 83, on 11 June 1994, at the VM Salgaocar hospital at Chicalim, in Goa. He had spent the last 55 years of his life in the coastal state, nearly seven thousand kilometres from home, as a consequence of participating in a forgotten, but no less extraordinary, episode in one of the more obscure theatres of the Second World War. When the war broke out, on 1 September 1939, Tiegel was employed by the German shipping line DDG Hansa. He was serving on the MV Braunfels, which was then travelling from Djibouti to Calcutta. Its cargo included “all kinds of things, from cars to cement,” his son, Edward, who lived in Goa until he…

8 min.
boiling over

After a hard day’s work, 15-year-old Bhurilal Gayeri was ready to call it a night. Over the course of that day in March 2011, Bhurilal and his co-worker, who was 16 years old, had fried 500 kilograms of farsan—a Gujarati catchall term for salty snacks—at the Sheetal Farsan Mart in the Vapi industrial estate in Gujarat. The owner had locked the doors from outside, to ensure that the underage workers he employed could not escape. In order to make room to sleep, the two teenagers struggled to move their large kadhai—wok—out of the way. Suddenly, Bhurilal slipped and fell, into 35 litres of hot cooking oil. “I have no memory of what happened after,” he told me when we met in October 2018 at his house in Nandeshma village in Gogunda,…

7 min.
songs of freedom

On 29 October 1842, The Nation, an Irish weekly newspaper, published the lyrics of a new version of “Sean Bhean Bhocht,” a folk ballad that had been passed down orally over generations. It was originally a scurrilous love song, about a young man who marries a sean-bhean bhocht—a poor old woman—and submits to her every demand, most of them sexual in nature. The version published in The Nation, however, recast the previously apolitical ballad to decidedly political ends. It had been composed almost fifty years before, and heralded the success of a French maritime expedition that planned to land nearly fifteen thousand troops at Bantry Bay in 1796 to aid the Society of United Irishmen in their planned rebellion against British colonial rule. Their landing was imminent, the sean-bhean bhocht said,…

6 min.
lost asylum

In the afternoon of 25 October 2018, 14-year-old Nidal and 15-year-old Haseeb walked through the narrow streets of Camini, a small town in the region of Calabria, in southern Italy. Nidal’s family had come from the village of Kafaroumah, at the gates of Idlib, a town in northwestern Syria where forces opposed to the regime of Bashar al-Assad still resist. Haseeb was from Lahore, in Pakistan, and had been in Italy for the past four years, with his 13-year-old sister Muskan. The two boys chatted and laughed as they headed for the multimedia classroom run by the local cooperative Jungi Mundu—which, in the Calabrian dialect, means “unite the world.” Their class that afternoon dealt with the age of European colonialism and the rise of nationalism. Jungi Mundu was founded, in 1999,…

7 min.
the summit of spin

On 27 and 28 April last year, a rare “informal summit” took place between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China’s president, Xi Jinping, at Wuhan in China. The meeting was described by the Indian and foreign media as a chance for the two countries to “reset” their fraught relationship. According to the Indian government, several outstanding issues were discussed—the dispute over the 4,056-kilometre Line of Actual Control; the trade deficit India has with China, a statistical figure going up every year; and ways to develop cultural exchange. Whether China’s occupation of Tibet—a longstanding bone of contention between the two nations—figured in their discussions is not known. Both countries’ governments and sections of the mainstream media hailed the visit as a milestone in bilateral relations. India’s ministry of external affairs released a…

9 min.
pad campaign

Documentaries usually tend to leave mainstream Indian audiences indifferent. Except, when it wins an Oscar and has something to do with India. In February, Period. End of Sentence., directed by the Iranian-American filmmaker Rayka Zahtabchi, won the Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject). The 26-minute film is set in Kathikera, a village in Uttar Pradesh, and depicts rural women overcoming their shame about menstruation by learning to manufacture and sell indigenous sanitary pads. The film in many ways resembles the kind of documentaries commissioned by non-profits. It is neat, tells an inspirational story, and follows the introduce-a-problem-suggest-a-solution model. The documentary is devoid of complexity and nuance, and aims to balance activism and storytelling. Such a style, by itself, is fine, but raises two vital questions: Why did this mediocre documentary…